SWS: Mesa Marin Raceway race report

Kanke Wins, Raudman Sets Record Bakersfield, Calif. (June 2, 2001) On a track that is tough on inexperience, veteran Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competitor M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, CA scored his third win of the 2001 season...

Kanke Wins, Raudman Sets Record

Bakersfield, Calif. (June 2, 2001) On a track that is tough on inexperience, veteran Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competitor M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, CA scored his third win of the 2001 season and expanded his points lead over Craig Raudman at Mesa Marin Raceway Saturday night.

The hot afternoon sun in Bakersfield was a welcome sight as the "Tour" rolled into town after having to reschedule the COORS LIGHT "125" due to inclement weather back in April. The half-mile high banks of Mesa Marin Raceway have been host to more Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring events then any other track on the schedule. Craig Raudman of Bakersfield used his experience to win the Bud Pole Award with a time of 18.153/99.157 mph. The Bud Pole was Raudman's fifth consecutive Bud Pole this season, breaking the seven-year old record set by Lance Hooper back in 1994.

With Raudman winning the pole and looking to capitalize on his recent success of two straight wins, other competitors were scrambling to find the set up that would keep them in the race. Raudman drew a six invert, which put long time Mesa Marin competitor Frank Maronski Jr. on the pole for the 125 lap clash. Veteran racer Doug McCoun of Prunedale, Calif. got the early jump at the drop of the green and quickly pulled out to a ten-car length lead over Maronski. McCoun would lead until the first caution was waved at lap 20, when the cars of Brett Thompson and Vince Little got together and spun in turn two.

On lap 27, Jon Nelson made his way to the front from his fourth starting position and was able to hold the point until the hard-charging Auggie Vidovich Jr. made his way around the Pontiac of Nelson on lap 31. Vidovich was able to put some distance between himself and now second place M.K. Kanke. Vidovich led until the second caution of the event came at lap 42 when the cars of Jimmy White and Mike Strobl made contact with each other in turn two. Under the yellow, Rookie-of-the-Year contender Burney Lamar had to pit because of a cut tire. Pitting dropped the seventh place runner a lap down on the field.

Vidovich continued to hold the point until Kanke made a move on the inside going into turn three. Kanke would not relinquish the point the rest of the event. While Kanke held the top spot, the rest of the pack battled tooth and nail for position. Raudman never became a factor in the race due to a broken rear end on the racecar, but managed to keep himself firmly in the top ten the entire race. By lap 85, McCoun, who had lost a lap in the pits due to a flat tire, was the fastest car on the racetrack and running with the leaders. Vidovich, still trying to catch Kanke had nowhere to go when the car of Maronski lay sideways in turn four on lap 118 and Vidovich spun to avoid contact. Instead, Vidovich slammed the outside wall and ended his run on the hook.

The final caution set up a green/white/checker finish and extended the 125-lap race to 128. Kanke got a great jump on the restart and was able to pull away from Greg Pursley who managed to work his way through the pack and be in contention for his first victory of the season. Kanke took the checkers ahead of Pursley, Nick Joanides, Bob Lyon, and Craig Raudman.

"We kind of laid back at first. The guys up front started beating each other up, and I did not want to get in a wreck", Kanke said from Victory Lane. "We knew we had a good car, and with 125 laps, you just take them one at a time and get to the front and then dictate the race. I did not want to see the last restart, but I stepped on it pretty good and got out there on the start."

Greg Pursley had his best finish of the 2001 season at Mesa Marin. "We had a right rear tire go down again for the second race, I think we got into some stuff following one of the wrecks", Pursley said. "I'll tell you what, the Star Nursery.Com guys never give up, and that is why I am here in second. Finishing second is awesome."

Craig Raudman was disappointed with fifth, knowing he had a car that could have won." I was just trying to hang on and find a place on the track where the car would work so the thing could turn and not get out from under me", Raudman said. "The rear end broke on the second lap, I tried to slow up as much as I could so I could save the right rear tire and have something at the end."

Rookie-of-the-Year contender Burney Lamar was the highest finishing rookie in the event and came back up through field to finish seventh after suffering flat tire early in the race. "Dennis Olson and Mike Bonicelli put a wonderful car under us, the thing was working great everywhere, high or low, we were just taking our time moving up," Lamar stated. "My hats off to the crew, they work really hard and it shows on the track."

Rounding out the top ten were McCoun, Lamar, Maronski, Scott Busby with his best finish of the season, and in tenth, Greg Fowler. Fowler this past week lost his ride when the he was driving for folded its operation for the year and left Fowler without a ride. He and his wife purchased a car from Carson Woods on Friday night and had his best showing of the season.

The race took 56 minutes and 3 seconds to complete, and the average speed was 68.510mph. The Bud Pole went to Raudman and the Gatorade Front Runner Award went to Kanke who led the most laps (65). There were six caution flags for 28 laps. The laps leaders were McCoun, who led lap 1-26, Nelson 27-30, Vidovich 31-63, and Kanke 64-128.

The Featherlite Southwest Series heads back to Irwindale Speedway on Saturday, June 9 for the running of the FOOD 4 LESS "150". Then Saturday, June 23 the Series heads to wine country of Northern California for their annual road course clash at Sears Point Raceway.

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses. NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks. Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Goody's Headache Powders, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-nascar/fsws-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Lance Hooper , Brett Thompson , Greg Pursley , Scott Busby , Burney Lamar , Doug McCoun , Craig Raudman , Nick Joanides